Chris Young, Randy Houser

DAY 1

Chris Young

Randy Houser

Brett Kissel, JESS MOSKALUKE

Fri, July 1, 2016

12:00 pm (event ends at 11:00 pm)

$149 - $269

This event is all ages

Chris Young
Chris Young
When an artist looks back on his or her own career, there are always moments he or she can point to where there was a shift to another level. Those defining moments tend to be easy to spot with the benefit of hindsight but more difficult to see without the passage of time. Yet Chris Young has a sense that something is happening.

"I really do believe in timing," says Young. "Everybody has a different point in their career when things start to come together and click, when it's your time."

With the release of his third studio album, NEON, Chris Young leaves no doubt. Now is his time.

How's this for everything clicking - NEON's first single, "Tomorrow," one of an impressive seven songs on the album co-written by Young, is the fastest-rising hit of his career. The cut raced to the top of the charts and is certified Digital Gold by the RIAA for sales exceeding 500,000 downloads.

Chris Young has accomplished more by 29 than some artists do in a lifetime. Already a Grammy-nominated recording artist, he's also a dynamic live performer consistently in demand, an international ambassador for his genre, a talented songwriter with six Number Ones to his name – by the way, he wrote four of them – and a handsome charmer to boot. Now, with the release of his fourth album, A.M., the man known for his classic baritone and melt-your-heart ballads knows how to have a good time, too.

Still, when all is said and done, it only takes two words to sum up the career of Chris Young: Definitely country.

"I've always loved country music, and I really liked singing it as a kid," Young remembers. "So I was like, 'That's what I want to do.' I just kind of always knew." His first record purchase was Keith Whitley's L.A. to Miami, followed by the likes of Randy Travis, Tracy Lawrence and Brooks & Dunn. He sang so much around the house that he jokes his parents "blocked him out." But as puberty approached, the young tenor found himself facing adversity for the first time. "I was singing all of Vince Gill's stuff, and then my voice changed," Young laughs. "For about a year there, I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm ruined. It's the end of the world!' And then I realized I could sing Randy Travis songs. It worked out well."
That's something of an understatement for the Murfreesboro, TN native. Blessed with parents who encouraged his art, Young soon found his way into musical theater, jazz training, and six years of classical voice, which honed his emerging baritone into something truly special. In his early teens, Young convinced his mom to drive him into Nashville so he could sit in with bands and work with local songwriters; by 16, he'd formed a band with some older guys from Middle Tennessee State University, and they started playing George Strait and Garth Brooks covers in whatever clubs would have them. "I was entirely too young to be playing in bars," Young says. "I would have these big Xs in chunky black marker on my hands. I can't imagine we were that good, but really, that was me enjoying the heck out of what I did."

Everyone starts somewhere, and Young was starting to hone his craft. "People were telling me to learn to write songs," he says. "I'd written poems and stuff, but I didn't really know how. Which is funny, because you don't necessarily have to know how to write a song. You just sit down and create something. You make it up." He cut his first independent record after high school, using his own money to fund 500 or so CDs and take himself on a short tour of Florida, where he played mostly Borders bookstores. "One day, I played to three people," Young remembers. "Two were playing chess, and the other person was reading a book. When I said, 'Well, this will be my last song,' the lady reading the book clapped."
If you're starting to think, Wow, this kid has a work ethic, you're getting the idea. Three semesters at Nashville's Belmont University and a short stint at MTSU taught him he wasn't cut out for college life. Instead, he picked up more than a diploma interning for a song publishing company owned by Laura Stroud, the wife of his future producer, James Stroud. Soon after, he scored an offer for a regular weekly gig as the frontman for the house band at Cowboys Dancehall in Arlington, one of the biggest country clubs in Texas. He dropped out of college, and began earning an equivalent of a Ph.D in the honky tonks of Texas, where he played more than 150 dates a year. He was 20. "We would open for anybody who came through – Lonestar, Dwight Yoakam. That's where I got real experience working with a band, lights, in-ear monitors, everything. I'm pretty lucky," he admits. "When I dropped out of college and moved to Texas, my parents didn't disown me." He soon returned to Tennessee and landed a recording contract with RCA Nashville. "I loved that label," Young says. "It was a heritage label that some of my favorite artists had been on. Keith Whitley. John Anderson. I think it's where I was supposed to be."

Four albums and seven years later, Young looks back with some amazement. "It's wild to think that I've been around that long," he says. "People always told me, 'Hey, the record deal isn't the finish line.' It's the beginning of the work," he says. "I probably did four full radio tours starting out, just going around saying, 'Hey, still here… not going away…' I think RCA saw my work ethic. They kept me around." Ask Young today how it felt as the momentum began to turn, and he'll say, with typical humility, "After the first hit ["Getting You Home (The Little Black Dress Song)"], it was like, 'Okay, thank God I made enough money that I can buy a really small place to live.' After the second hit ["The Man I Want To Be"], it was a mixture of validation and just relief. 'Okay, I'm not a one hit wonder.'"

Far from it: He would chart five consecutive Number One singles, co-writing four of them, and receiving plenty of Grammy, ACM, and CMA nominations along the way. With A.M., this self-professed "studio nerd" is ready to launch phase two of a plan he cooked up years ago with longtime producer James Stroud. "When we started making The Man I Want To Be, we talked it out," Young says. "He told me, 'Man, I had this vision that we would do this record and the next to really establish what your sound is. After that, you get to grow and stretch and play.' That's what we did with A.M. I could kind of do whatever I wanted."

Young co-wrote six of the eleven tracks on the record, including the Top 5 hit "Aw Naw," which sets the tone immediately. An irreverent story about what Young calls "an accidental party – 'Hey, I just came to have one, and ended up staying all night,'" it's got an addictive four-on-the-floor vibe that's tailor made for live sing-alongs, and a tongue-in-cheek title that's both ridiculous and ridiculously inescapable. "It's just a slang way of saying, 'Oh, hell no,'" Young explains. "The guy that brought it up was [co-writer] Ashley Gorley. He goes, 'Aw naw!' And it was like, 'How do you spell that?'"

Combined with the album's equally raucous title track, one might expect A.M. to be something of a concept album about things getting crazy after midnight. Instead, "It's things that you wouldn't necessarily expect," says Young, citing tracks like the albums second single, "Who I Am With You," which reached the top of the singles charts and sold more than 500,000 copies. The tender, traditional love song called "Goodbye" is further evidence that there's something deeper going on in the hours before the dawn. "'Lighters in the Air' is about meeting someone and falling in love at a concert, losing yourself in that night with the band playing in the background," he says. "And 'Goodbye' – when you look at the title, you might assume it's a breakup song. But it's about a relationship worth fighting for, showing up at somebody's house in the middle of the night and trying to work it out."

More than anything, A.M. is defiantly, definitely country. "Everybody's got a definition of what country music is," Young says. "Never before has it been so broad as to what can be on a country radio station, and what country music can be. It really just has to be what you feel as an artist." With its double guitars and occasional moments of arena-rock glory, A.M. sounds unlike any album Young has ever made – but that doesn't change what he calls the "core principle" of his music: "I'm never going to lose the acoustic guitar and the steel and the story in the song," he says. "When I open my mouth, I sound country. No one's going to confuse my records with being outside of the genre. Will I push some boundaries for some people? Hopefully. But I'm a country singer."

And for anyone who knows the real Chris Young, the party anthems on A.M. won't come as that much of a surprise. Though he's made his name on mature, sensitive, heartfelt hits like "Tomorrow," "You," and "Voices," he is, at heart, just like any other 29 –year-old guy. "If I wanted my friends to describe me any way possible," Young says, "it would be 'He's fun to hang out with.'" On his rare days off from the road or the studio, you'll find him fishing with his dad, geeking out on music from old-school Nashville to early '90s New Jack Swing, sitting in with a band at a hole-in-the-wall club, or simply closing down the bars on Lower Broadway with his buddies, ordering pizza and playing song wars on the jukebox until dawn. "I'm a normal dude," says Young. "I just happen to have a really freakin' cool job."

Recently named one of the summer's top tour openers by Entertainment Weekly, Young is on the road with Dierks Bentley on the "Riser Tour" – the latest in a string of high-profile supporting slots including tours with Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley and George Strait. He's also plotting his next headlining run, with an eye on playing a stadium someday. And with the release of A.M. he says, "I'm happy. I think this is probably the happiest I've been in my life. I love the record that I made, I'm happy that it's different, that I'm stretching a little bit – and that people seem to be liking it. And I'm on a great tour. It's just a really, really good time right now. Maybe that's why I felt so compelled to put party songs on this record. 'Cause that's kind of how I feel."
Randy Houser
Randy Houser
Randy Houser is a man refreshed. "I don't know how it happened, but everything in my life has started lining up," says the Lake, Mississippi native. "I must have done somebody right in the past."
Houser's own past contains no shortage of achievement, including multiple nominations for ACM and CMA Awards, a #2 single in the form of "Boots On," and songwriting credits for major names such as Trace Adkins, Justin Moore and Chris Young. In 2008—mere months after the release of his debut single, "Anything Goes"—Houser was even asked by David Letterman himself to appear on the Late Show. The singer's first full-length, Anything Goes, came out later that year, followed in 2010 by They Call Me Cadillac.

And yet despite this early success, Houser now admits that he wasn't truly happy. "It seemed like professionally things weren't as great as they could be, and that was part of it," he says. "But the biggest thing was not having a homebase. I needed an anchor." He found one last year when he married his wife, Jessa. "All of a sudden it was like I had this piece that had been missing," he says with audible gratitude. Another piece—son West Yantz Houser—arrived this past spring, as did a crisp new look and a pact with Stoney Creek Records.

"Everybody there feels like part of my family," Houser says of the independent imprint, where he happily signed following a long stretch of intensive touring. (How intensive? Think 150 shows a year.) "You walk in the door and everybody seems really happy with their job; there's no strife in the air. That's really important for me to have right now. It's comforting."

Those positive vibes ripple through "How Country Feels," the sparkling first single from Houser's upcoming Stoney Creek debut, which he's currently cutting with producer Derek George, a fellow Mississippian Houser's been wanting to work with for a decade. "It was the obvious choice for a leadoff," Houser says of "How Country Feels." "It caught my ear the first time I heard it—like, 'I wanna hear that again.'"

Other new tracks echo the single's sunny self-assurance, including "We're Just Growing Younger" and "Along for the Ride," which Houser co-wrote with Zac Brown. "We were playing a festival and I just had this song rolling around in my head," Houser remembers of the latter. "I stayed up till about 5 in the morning but then got stuck. So I called up Zac and we went on his bus and knocked it out of the park."

There is contemplation, too: "Like a Cowboy" is about "me coming home for a few days, then having to leave again," Houser says, while "Route 3 Box 250D" provides an intimate snapshot of the singer's upbringing. "That one's kind of hard to listen to," he admits. "It hits almost too close to home."

As for the album's sound, Houser says it's shaping up as his most expansive outing yet, with more bells and whistles than he's used in the past; it also showcases the remarkable voice that led Vince Gill to call Houser "one of the best in the new crop of country singer-songwriters" and caused his pal Jamey Johnson to say, "I watched a blind man jump to his feet and drop his crutches the first time he heard Randy Houser sing."

Still, the heart of the album—of Houser's entire outlook right now—remains the story of a man who's moved through darkness into light. "I feel like I've reached such a special moment," he says, and it's a true pleasure to hear him inside it.
Brett Kissel
Brett Kissel
When you come from a place called Flat Lake, Alberta, it's pretty tough to get noticed. For Brett Kissel, it's pretty tough to be ignored.

The 24-year-old singer/songwriter has been THE country music story of 2014 – recently winning 2 awards at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards – for "CMT Video of the Year" and "Interactive Artist of the Year", after recording 8 nominations. Brett also took home a Canadian Radio Music Award – for Breakthrough Artist of the Year in Country Music, on top of 2 Association of Country Music in Alberta awards, and 2 Edmonton Music Awards. With countless sold out shows across North America, Kissel was primed for his major label debut album through Warner Music Canada, Started With A Song, released late last year.

Even before the album's release, Kissel had already made radio history. With more than 93% of Canadian Country stations adding the first single "Started With A Song," the track eclipsed the record for most adds at Canadian Country radio in one week, a record previously held by Taylor Swift. Since the album's release, Brett has become the talk of Canadian country music. He has seen 2 of his music videos reach No. 1 at CMT, he has scored three top 10 radio hits, and he headlined a cross-Canada tour. To top it all off, Brett won his first Juno Award – becoming the first country artist to be awarded with Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 17 years.

The album, co-produced by Kissel with Ted Hewitt (Rodney Atkins), Ben Phillips (Blake Shelton) and CCMA Award-winner Bart McKay, is an exhilarating collection of music that can be best described as the New Wave of Old Country: each song a slice of real-life sentiment; emotional touchstones that run the gamut of highs and lows and explore such subjects as deep love, trying moments and poignant reflection, measured out by party anthems and a sense that something special is happening here.

Listening to the rousingly playful title track "Started With A Song", the invigoratingly catchy "3-2-1" and the modern country gem "Something You Just Don't Forget," it is no wonder why Bob Doyle, the manager behind Garth Brooks, proceeded to sign Brett to a co-management and publishing deal upon meeting him in Nashville.

Kissel makes it clear how personal these songs really are with tracks like "Country In My Blood" – written about the Alberta cattle ranch that has been in his family for over a century – the poignant true-life tale of his grandparents in the moving ballad "Together (Grandma and Grandpa's Song)" and "Girl In A Cowboy Hat," an upbeat song about potential romance.

During the summer touring season, Kissel headlined Canada's largest country music festival – Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alberta. After a late set and a long autograph line, he returned home to the ranch at 3 a.m. At 6:45 a.m. there was a knock on his bedroom door. It was his grandfather ("who we affectionately call Grandpa Bear").

"I said, 'Grandpa, I'd really like to sleep in. I just played Big Valley Jamboree last night and I've only had two hours of sleep.' And he said, 'Wake up, because you're no country star on the farm!'

Kissel realized at that moment, "My Grandpa was right. No matter what I do, even if it's playing in front of 25,000 people, once I get home, work needs to get done. It doesn't matter who I am onstage."

It's a much different kind of work when he hits the road, which he does often. An energetic and electrifying performer, Kissel plays upwards of 150 shows a year.

His parents remind him that he's been an attention-seeker his whole life. "I craved the spotlight. Any opportunity to stand up on the couch and belt out a tune when I was 3 or 4 years old, I always took."

When his grandmother bought him a Sears-catalogue guitar just before his 7th birthday, Kissel's fate was sealed.

"It was this deep-rooted passion inside of me. When I was 10 years old, I was playing three-chord Johnny Cash songs at talent shows, but singing them two octaves higher than his deep baritone voice.

"When I was 12 and I got a $50 honorarium to play for a local 4H club – I realized I could do this for a living," he chuckles. "Usually it took me two birthdays and a really generous tooth fairy to make $50. And I made that in 20 minutes just playing and singing songs? I was over the moon."

Kissel continued to perform at various agrarian events and celebrations, even being paid for one concert with a pure bred bull.

Influenced by the likes of Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Buck Owens and George Strait, Brett Kissel is still very much his own man: a dynamic, charismatic performer, singer and songwriter and ready to make an imposing impression on the global country music scene with Started With A Song.

"I write and record music that's true to myself, about experiences that I've had in my young age," Kissel declares, "and it's my hope that the fans and all the people listening are either touched by it or can escape wherever they need to escape from for three-and-a-half minutes.

"I've been working on these songs for three years, and cannot wait to begin making new fans by playing around the world."

When he finally reaches that goal – and you know that Brett Kissel has the confidence, determination and talent to pull it off – remember, of course, that it all Started With A Song.
Venue Information:
London Music Hall - CA
185 Queens Ave.
London, ON, N6A 1J1
http://www.londonmusichall.com/

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